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tv   NBC Nightly News  NBC  December 6, 2011 5:30pm-6:00pm PST

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on the broadcast tonight, game on. president obama becomes candidate obama. and tonight, as this race heats up, we have a reality check on the new republican front-runner. news about that mine disaster in west virginia that killed 29 men. tonight, one of the biggest settlements in history. but some are asking, why isn't anybody going to jail? fighting breast ncer. a new test that could provide much-needed help for tens of thousands of women who get alarming news and then aren't sure what to do next. and a holiday mystery that nobody really wants to solve. the question is, who is leaving the gold coins in the christmas kettle? "nightly news" begins now.
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captions paid for by nbc-universal television good evening. exactly four weeks from today, the iowa caucuses will give us the first results of this election season. and tonight, things are on the move. the latest polling shows newt gingrich out ahead in iowa by two to one over mitt romney, who chose not to campaign there early on. but that's changing. and president obama today invoked an old rule in politics, define yourself or wait to be defined by others. he gave a speech in the midwest today that was different in tone, tenor, volume than what he has been saying lately. and so today, four weeks from iowa, it sure seemed like this campaign was on. it's where we begin tonight with our chief white house correspondent and political director, chuck todd. hey, chuck, good evening. >> good evening, brian. you got that right. as the republican campaign appears headed to a two-way contest, the man they ultimately have to beat flew out to kansas
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to lay out what some aides said will be the cornerstone of his case for re-election. the president rolled out the obama version of prairie populism today in a small kansas town, identified with a famously progressive republican. >> in 1910, teddy roosevelt came here to osawatomie, and he laid out his vision for what he called a new nationalism, of an economic system under which each man shall be guaranteed the opportunity to show the best that there is in him. >> reporter: mr. obama again cast himself and the democratic party as the protecters of a middle class under republican assault. >> and their philosophy is simple, we are better off when everybody is left to fend for themselves and play by their own rules. i am here to say they are wrong. >> reporter: and in case folks missed the reference to the middle class, the president used the phrase 20 times. >> this is a make or break moment for the middle class. >> reporter: using phrases like fair shot and fair share, he
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even used the language of the occupy wall street movement. >> these aren't democratic values or republican values. these aren't 1% values or 99% value, they're american values. >> reporter: in an odd coincidence, teddy roosevelt became an issue today for newt gingrich, who had once called himself a teddy roosevelt republican. gingrich also took heat on the airwaves, courtesy of ron paul. >> he's demonstrating himself to be the very essence of the washington insiders. >> reporter: and mitt romney, no longer in control of the republican race, has abandoned his hands off the media strategy, but denies it's because he has lost the lead. >> that's what happens toward the end of a campaign, it's time for our closing argument. >> reporter: and, brian, the so-called donald trump debate lost a key contestant today. mitt romney said he just can't find a way to fit it into his schedule. but mitt romney said he personally called up donald trump to tell him no. >> chuck todd in our washington news room to start us off tonight.
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chuck, thanks. with newt gingrich now in the front-runner spot, we'll all be hearing about his tenure of speaker of the house in the mid '90s. nbc's lisa myers tonight looks back at some of the hits, runs and errors. >> the speaker of the house, newt gingrich of georgia -- >> reporter: because of newt gingrich in 1995, republicans recaptured the house for the first time in 40 years. >> i am a genuine revolutionary. >> reporter: and working with president clinton, gingrich piled up real achievements, a balanced budget, and historic welfare reform. but his speakership was also marked by chaos, polarization, and incendiary remarks. after four years, gingrich was forced out by his own troops. former congressman joe scarborough helped lead the mutiny. >> he accomplished a lot. but he burned so many bridges that it hurt the republican party. and more importantly, to a lot of us, the conservative movement moving forward. >> reporter: a former press secretary says gingrich's brilliance was often outweighed by hubris and lack of discipline.
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>> newt never made the transition from being an entrepreneur or revolutionary to being a manager. >> reporter: twice gingrich shut down the government. he says this about that now. >> we stopped it twice when we were fighting with clinton. but we did it very carefully. clinton and i understood how to fight in a way that would mature and confuse the washington press corps. >> reporter: but at the time, gingrich generated this headline, after suggesting he shut down the government because the president made him sit in the back on air force one. two years in, some republicans were so upset with gingrich, he barely was re-elected speaker. >> to the degree i was too brash, too self-confident or too pushy, i apologize. >> reporter: he became the first speaker ever reprimanded by the house for ethics violations, and was fined $300,000 for misusing tax exempt funds. in his final months, gingrich led a bare knuckles battle to impeach president clinton, which backfired with the public.
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republicans lost seats in the '98 election. under his leadership, the party's approval rating plummeted from 50% to 33%. later, it was revealed that while leading a moralistic charge to impeach president clinton, gingrich himself was having an affair with a hill staffer, calista. now his third wife. so far, only a handful of his former colleagues are supporting his presidential bid. >> having lived through newt in the '90s, there are some members who just don't think he can win. >> reporter: some former colleagues also say, that based on his speakership, they question whether gingrich has the temperament and judgment to sit in this chair. lisa myers, nbc news, washington. the head of the federal aviation administration, randy babbitt said today he will resign. this comes after he was arrested saturday night on drunk driving charges. babbitt was an eastern airlines captain for 25 years, he's now 65. he was pulled over in suburban virginia, where police said he
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was driving on the wrong side of the road. today he said he would not allow his own troubles to distract from the work of his colleagues. and today the obama administration announced an unprecedented new policy. the u.s. will use the leverage of foreign aide money to push for gay rights around the world, to put new pressure on countries like saudi arabia that outlaw homosexuality and punish and kill gay people in some instances. speaking in geneva, secretary of state hillary clinton said, gay rights and human rights about being gay should never be a crime. overseas today, afghanistan suffered one of its worst suicide bomb attacks ever. three apparently coordinated attacks killing more than 60 people in all. all of the attacks targeted members of a religious minority there, in the kind of sectarian violence that's been rare in afghanistan. nbc's atia abawi is in kabul for us tonight. atia, good evening.
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>> reporter: good evening, brian. well, there were three separate attacks and they took place on one of the holiest days for shiite muslims. before the attacks, shiite muslims gathered to worship at a mosque here in kabul. but without warning, this day of remembrance turned tragic. a suicide bomber hiding in a crowd of men, women and children blew himself up. the huge blast killed at least 56 people, 150 injured. after the bomb detonated, there were wounded everywhere in pieces, this witness said. and dead everywhere. few were spared. this woman cried for her only son. this man for his mother. outside the nearest hospital, family members gathered fearing the worst. soon after, another attack targeting a convoy of shiites in northern afghanistan. the bomb hidden in a bicycle. four were killed there, 21
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injured. police reportedly found and diffused a second bomb nearby. a third attack in khandahar left one person dead. sectarian violence like this is rare among muslims in afghanistan, unlike pakistan and iraq, despite 30 years of conflict and war. even the taliban denied involvement, saying in an e-mail, the islamic emirates will not permit anyone to kill people on behalf of religion, ethnicity or tribal affiliation. president karzai in germany for a conference on the future of afghanistan spoke about the violence today. >> this is the first time that on such an important date in afghanistan that terrorism of that horrible nature is taking place. >> reporter: late today, a sunni militant group based in pakistan claimed responsibility for the attacks. as afghanistan counted its dead, one shiite cleric said, we will never forget. today's bombings dealt a heavy
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blow in an already war-torn country. some fear that this sectarian attack today will lead to a new wave of violence and retaliation. brian? >> nbc's atia abawi at our bureau in kabul. atia, thanks. nbc news has learned more about the story we first reported here last night about the unmanned drone that crashed in iran. u.s. officials tell our own jim miklaszewski at the pentagon that the cia had used this sophisticated stealth drone in the past to spy on iran's nuclear facilities and hezbollah training camps within iran. but officials would not describe the mission it was flying when it crashed last thursday. in april of last year, 29 men died in the explosion in the upper big branch mine in west virginia. as you'll recall, it was a huge story and a genuine national tragedy. today the mines' owner agreed to pay more than $200 million in penalties and restitution to the
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families of the victims. nbc's tom costello covered the disaster, and tonight he has more on the settlement. >> reporter: it's a tragedy that still haunts west virginia coal country. 29 men, husbands, fathers, brothers, sons and uncles died when a huge explosion ripped through the upper big branch mine in april 2010. soon after, we talked to tommy davis, who lost his own son, as well as a brother and a nephew. >> why? why did it happen? somebody tell me. why am i not coming home, seeing my son on my couch. >> reporter: federal and state investigators quickly focused on the mine operator, massey energy and what they called a pattern of reckless disregard for safety. >> basic fundamental safety precautions and practices were neglected. >> reporter: today, the largest government settlement ever stemming from a mine disaster. the new owner of the mine, alpha resources, will pay $209 million. $46 million of it in
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restitution, to be split among the miners' families. $11 million to settle hundreds of safety violations racked up before the explosion. the rest will go to mine safety improvements and mine safety research. in a statement, the company says, alpha believes the settlements announced today provide the best path forward for everyone. we talked via skype with a state special investigator, mcateer. >> this will hopefully send a signal to industry, that you have to operate in a safe way. >> reporter: of the 29 miners families, eight have settled private claims with the company, the rest are in court-ordered mediation. meanwhile, the criminal investigation continues. 18 former massey executives still refuse to talk to investigators. tom costello, nbc news, washington. the evangelist billy graham was released from a hospital in asheville, north carolina, today after being admitted last wednesday for pneumonia.
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doctors said graham, who is now 93, responded well to treatment, and should be able to resume his normal activities soon. we'll take a break. and as we continue along the way this tuesday night, news tonight about a test that could help women and their doctors decide what to do after worrisome mammogram results. and later, who is leaving gold coins in the red kettle. it's a kind of happy holiday mystery.
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confused. >> what some people call a precursor to cancer. >> reporter: dr. pamela otto, a breast radiologist says dcis consists of cancer cells that are inside the milk ducts. >> we take out a little bit of that tissue. >> reporter: doctors cannot be sure it will spread, or if the patient needs to be treated with radiation or a mastectomy. >> there's a percentage that will never go on to develop an invasive cancer. but a certain percentage will go on to develop invasive cancer. >> reporter: today's study
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presented at a major breast cancer conference finds that a genetic test can help with the decisions about how to treat these cases. it gives a score indicating how high the risk is. good news for women? >> it's really huge news for women. it all decisions. >> reporter: the results are part of a big movement to use genetic markers to tailor treatment so that every cancer patient gets the best possible care. experts say only about one quarter of the dcis patients need radiation. >> now we can look and say, what is your specific risk? are you in the three quarters who have a very low risk? >> reporter: sometimes this will just stay in a woman's ducts for the rest of her life, and she'll never have a life threatening disease? >> that's correct. >> reporter: a test that could provide useful guidance for tens of thousands of women every year. robert bazell, nbc news, san antonio. when we come back here tonight, would you buy stock in an outfit that only really plays to win one day a week? well, a whole lot of people are lining up to do just that.
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last night here on the broadcast we told you about an elderly new york woman who said she was subjected to a humiliating strip search by tsa agents at jfk airport. tonight a total of three elderly women, all from florida, have the same complaint. they say they were forced to take off their clothes while being screened at jfk. tsa says it's reviewing all these complaints, and for their part they continue to say, "we do not conduct strip searches as part of passenger screening." as we reported here last week, hearings are going on now in washington over whether or not john hinckley, who tried to assassinate president ronald reagan should be allowed more time away from the mental hospital where he spent the last 30 years. well, today his sister from dallas testified she sees no reason why he shouldn't be allowed out of the hospital for
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more days per year. she said her brother "doesn't bother anybody and doesn't pose a risk to anyone." then she was asked if it would be okay if her brother lived closer to her in dallas. at that point she felt compelled to point out she lives about ten minutes away from the home of former president george w. bush, and maybe that wouldn't be such a great idea after all. well, harry truman famously ran against the do nothing congress. barack obama's been trying to do that as well. a look at the numbers shows he might have a point. this congress has now officially passed the fewest bills of any congress in the last ten nonelection years. we couldn't help but feel sad tonight when congress did something. they lit the capitol hill christmas tree, but then it went out a few minutes later. it was later repaired. well, we've said it, we watch our presidents when they enter office, and we watch what happens to them while they're in office. they seem to age before our
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eyes. some of them go into office looking like robust young men, and they come away looking much grayer for the experience. for example, bill clinton and george w. bush at the start of their presidencies, then both men after two terms. barack obama from three years ago, and the president today. but a new study actually says they live longer than most of us. it says compared to most folks our former presidents are healthy, wealthy and wise. and they may get gray hair before our very eyes, but most of them, it says, are built to last. and just in time for christmas, if you have a packer backer on your gift list, you could make him or her a part owner of the super bowl champion green bay packers. the undefeated packers put 250,000 shares of their team's stock on sale today. it's the first stock sale since 1997. the packers, as you may know, are the only publicly owned team
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in the nfl, and this sale at $250 a share will help fund a renovation project at lambeau field. while we giants fans are not happy with the pack right about now, they are better behaved than a whole lot of companies you could invest in. up here next tonight, the mystery gold coins somebody is dropping in the christmas kettle.
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well, you could call this a "making a difference" report tonight. we just don't know who to nominate. somebody is dropping very valuable coins in those red salvation army kettles this time of year and helping a lot of people and making for kind of a charity mystery. nbc's kerry sanders has our report from ft. myers, florida. >> reporter: the sounds of the holidays. but in southwest florida, it's also the soundtrack to a mystery. for the seventh year running, someone has quietly slipped this into the salvation army's collection pot. a 1913 double eagle saint gaudens $20 gold coin. value today, $1,800. vernon robinson was on duty when someone dropped the coin into his kettle.
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>> i never seen nothing like that in my life. it made me feel real good. >> reporter: as in years past the coin came with a handwritten note, in loving memory of mimi. at the salvation army sorting center, volunteers are on the lookout for perhaps another gold coin. >> i'll definitely have my eyes peeled. >> reporter: could be another? >> we don't know. could be somebody else wanting to donate. >> reporter: the salvation army is the second largest charity in the united states, founded by minister william booth in london in the 1850s. in the last three decades, gold and silver coins have turned up during the holidays in those red kettles in at least ten states, including texas, illinois, colorado and here in florida. >> we live in a fast food world today, where everything seems to be instant. let me make my donation online. do you take credit cards? but this person has taken the time to find this coin every year. >> reporter: the salvation army, a christian organization, says there are two messages that
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resonate. that note and what's inscribed on the coin. in god we trust. kerry sanders, nbc news, ft. myers, florida. and that's our tuesday night broadcast. thank you for being here with us, i'm brian williams. and we hope to see you right back here tomorrow evening. good night. -- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com bay tonight. >> it's a bizarre accident that may have happened during the taping of a popular tv show. the alameda sheriff's office says some type of projectile has gone through a home in dublin. >> cheryl

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